A gift in good hands

The important role played by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut in augmenting the charitable inclinations of the people who call our region home was demonstrated once again this week with the announcement that it had received the largest gift in its 31-year history.

Peter Grayson Letz of North Stonington, who died last year at age 60 from cancer, leaves to the foundation a donation estimated at about $8 million, depending on the final liquidation of his estate. Adhering to his wishes, the foundation will use the gift to create the Peter Grayson Letz Fund for Animals and the Environment.

Attorney Suzanne Kitchings recalls working with Mr. Letz in the final months of his life, probing how to most effectively use his fortune to support his passion for benefitting the welfare of animals, both domestic and wildlife, and preserving the environment.

She counseled Mr. Letz on the option of creating his own foundation, but that would require someone to run it. With no immediate relatives to guide it, such a foundation could prove problematic, she noted in her discussions. Mr. Letz was predeceased by both his parents and by his only sibling, a brother. He had no children, nieces or nephews. A potentially better alternative, she recalled suggesting, was the Community Foundation. Mr. Letz agreed.

The foundation is prepared, in the words of President and CEO Maryam Elahi, to "magnify the social impact of this gift."

The donated money will only be invested in companies deemed sensitive to animal rights and judged environmentally conscious. In coming months, the Community Foundation will hold a series of meetings with environmental and animal welfare groups to help develop long-term guidelines for distributing the Letz Fund grants.

Using investment income from the endowment, the foundation expects to award about $320,000 in grants annually. Ms. Elahi said the priority will be to leverage the grant with matching funds to boost the impact.

The foundation manages an endowment of $51 million, comprised of 430 charitable funds, and serves 42 towns. It has a long record of being a good steward. Reportedly frugal with his money in life, Mr. Letz can rest in peace knowing the foundation will manage his generous gift with appropriate prudency.

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